The Independent
A Presbyterian
New York: 27 November 1856




  MESSRS. EDITORS:—The last Philadelphia Presbyterian (Nov. 15) has a communication in which the 'immoral tendency' of 'Dred' is quite vehemently asserted. I have not read the book, and have nothing to say in its defense. Recollecting, however, the precisely similar outcry, that came from precisely the same quarters, against one of the most truly religious works of the age, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' I am the less easily alarmed in the present instance; and, in the mean time, it may be worth while to draw attention to the sort of morality—the exquisite truthfulness and candor—that characterizes some of our champions of orthodoxy, and stern censores morum.

  The very same number of the Presbyterian contains the following as an editorial article, coming immediately after one on 'Encouraging Symptoms,' (to wit, of a religious revival in the churches,) and another on 'A Subterfuge' (to wit, of Roman Catholic priests):

  Sober Second Thought.—We recently animadverted with some severity on the libel upon our country by the editor of the Edinburgh Witness, whose great historical authority was Mrs. Stowe's extravagant and immoral novel. It would seem that the editor has been called to an account by some of his more intelligent and impartial countrymen, for, in a second article which has just appeared, his tone is much moderated, and although sufficiently imbued with a bitter feeling towards the United States, he is constrained to make this acknowledgment:

  "Works of fiction are but bad authorities, in most cases, for the character and tenets of churches. It would be scarce safe to form one's judgment of the Covenanters from the descriptions of Sir Walter Scott in 'Old Mortality;' or of the general nature of Calvinism, practical or theoretic, from the Mrs. Clennam of Dickens, or from Kingsley's 'Mother of Alton Locke.' And in reading Mrs. Stowe's last novel, we must say we set down to exaggeration of this kind some of the representations given of the American clergy in that singular fiction."

  Now I happened to have read only a few days before, the Witness' article here referred to; and, as the impression it made on my mind was entirely different from what the Presbyterian would be thought to have received from it, I have had the curiosity to hunt it up and read it again. It is herewith inclosed for you, and you will be able at once to judge of the propriety and fairness of my comments:

  1. In that article I find not the slightest trace of 'a bitter feeling towards the United States.' Only too clear is it that all the bitterness is the Presbyterian's own, and that the imputation on his brother across the water is a pure and simple calumny.

  2. 'It would' not 'seem'—there is absolutely no ground whatever for believing or suspecting—'that the editor has been called to an account by some of his more intelligent and impartial countrymen.' Intelligent and impartial Scotchmen are not apt, at least while in Scotland, to palliate so vile a thing as the system of American slavery, or to malign the friends of freedom; though it is true enough that some of them, when they come over here, and are pushing their fortunes among our Presbyterian editors and pulpits, do show a scandalous dexterity in changing their tune.

  3. You will observe that the extract from the Witness in the Presbyterian is cut suddenly short at a comma, and that the rest of the sentence in the original is in these words: 'a fiction which, whatever criticism may say respecting is as a work of art, MUST BE RECOGNIZED AS A MIGHTY POWER BOTH IN EUROPE AND AMERICA.' But now comes

  4. The main point. From the Presbyterian's exposition of that extract, its readers were to get the idea that the editor of the Witness, upon sober second thought, and under peremptory remonstrances of the better class of his country men, is now moderating his tone, and is now driven to set down to the exaggeration of fiction, some of 'Dred's' representations of the American clergy. How very shocking, then, is it to know, that the truth is just the other way! the whole and sole drift of the article, which fills more than two columns of the Edinburgh paper, though the Presbyterian could afford to quote only two and a half sentences from the beginning, being to show, that, whereas on first reading 'Dred,' the editor was disposed to attribute some things to an artistic license, subsequent examination compels him to fear that the reality, as judge by 'the views and principles which can be sported uncensured in the General Assembly of the New-School Presbyterian Church of America,' is even worse than can be gathered from the fictions of Mrs. Stowe!!!

  Is it not very curious—how, indeed is it to be explained? (and the puzzle extends much beyond the Presbyterian)—that Religious Editors and Protestant Doctors of Divinity, while indulging themselves in such miserable tactics as these, and that, too, week after week, or as often as party prejudice or a personal antipathy tempts them, are all the while equally constant in sighing for revivals of religion, and in thanking God that they are not as Roman Catholic priests, or even as that Independent!